• Don’t Get Fooled Again – Can the brain only use glucose?

    In this second installment of the Don’t Get Fooled Again series is a statement about the brain. A statement made recently in a column written for long-distance endurance athletes:

    The brain is completely dependent (100%) on sugar as its main fuel.  (True or False?)



    False.  The brain can also use ketones. In fact, as much as 70% of the brain’s energy needs can be supplied by ketones. Research has shown that ketone energy supplied to the brain is more efficient than glucose.

    Ketogenesis, or the production of ketones by the body, occurs in a few different scenarios. Ketones are produced when fat is utilized as a fuel source for the body. Ketones can be produced during certain types of endurance exercise, when people are consuming low-carb diets, during periods of fasting and during starvation.

    The brain doesn’t use fat directly; but does use the by-product of fat-burning - ketones.

    For people normally consuming a high carbohydrate diet, glucose will be the major supply of fuel for the brain. To imply that people must consume a high carbohydrate diet in order to supply fuel to the brain is misleading.



    LaManna, J.C., et al, “Ketones suppress brain glucose consumption,” Adv Exp Med Biol. 2009; 645: 301–306., doi:  10.1007/978-0-387-85998-9_45

    White, H., Venkatesh, B, “Clinical review: Ketones and brain injury,” Crit Care. 2011; 15(2): 219, published online 2011 Apr 6. doi:  10.1186/cc10020


    Be sure to see if I have an easy-to-use training plan for you on my site to help you reach your goals. And, there are more options on the TrainingPeaks site.

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    • David Lemons says...

      I will admit i did not read the study that you referenced and that may answer my question. but… Does this imply endorsement of the keto diet? Does the brain get accustomed to carbs and is not as effective as effective as switching to ketones as it could be when on a diet like the kept diet?

      On November 02, 2017

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